ATLANTA -- The ever-growing pack of candidates for the U.S. Senate have a wide-open running field, according to a survey released at the start of the Georgia Republican Convention.
The poll of 1,351 people with a history of voting in Republican primaries was conducted Thursday night by GaPundit.com with an automatic caller just hours before Karen Handel announced she was joining Congressmen Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston in running. Earlier in the week, David Perdue announced he had formed an exploratory committee and trumpeted the endorsement of his cousin, former Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Kingston of Savannah entered the race a week ago, and he snagged a tiny lead in the poll with 18 percent. Gingrey, an Augusta native who represents Marietta in the U.S. House of Representatives, held second with 15.98 percent, and former Secretary of State Handel pulled third with 15.81 percent. Broun of Athens drew support from 14 percent while the political newcomer Perdue, a retired CEO of Dollar General, Pillowtex and Reebok, garnered 6 percent. Thirty percent of those surveyed are undecided.
With a 2.66 percent margin of error, there’s essentially no difference between the top-four politicians whose names have all been on ballots before.
“At this point, the numbers most likely to affect the eventual outcome are in the ‘cash-on-hand’ column of (Federal Election Commission) disclosures,” said GaPundit’s Todd Rehm. “Call it a wide-open race, and we’re so far out we can’t even see into the first turn. But we know that two of the candidates have significantly more fuel than the others.”
Gingrey and Kingston both have around $2 million in cash rolled over from their congressional campaigns, but Handel spokesman Dan McLagan estimated it would take that much to buy the name recognition she already has as a two-time statewide candidate with a grassroots network.
Interestingly, Handel just barely comes out on top with women despite being the only female candidate. She claimed 15 percent of women, while Kingston, Broun and Gingrey each took 14.
Handel gained national attention while an executive with the Susan G. Komen Foundation because she stopped its funding of Planned Parenthood due to its abortion stance. But just hours after her announcement Friday, Georgia Right to Life issued a statement saying she wouldn’t be endorsed as long as she has no objection to abortion in incidences of rape and incest. The organization said Kingston, Broun and Gingrey oppose abortion in all cases.
“GRTL would welcome the opportunity to consider endorsing Mrs. Handel if she commits to protecting all innocent human life at every stage of development,” said GRTL political-action committee director Melanie Crozier.
The organization’s vice president, Mike Griffin, noted on Facebook Friday that one in 10 women will have an abortion by age 45, which suggests that those women and their friends are unlikely to vote for an anti-abortion candidate. That may explain why Handel, whose abortion views are well known, isn’t claiming more female support.